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The Georgetown Community Crime Alert program looks to fight crimes such as shoplifting by alerting local businesses of nearby incidents.

Georgetown-area businesses have teamed up with the Metropolitan Police Department to fight crime in the surrounding neighborhood.

The Georgetown Community Crime Alert program, launched on Oct. 15, utilizes the Alert D.C. system’s, which sends text messages directly from the MPD dispatcher to business owners when a crime takes place in the nearby area. Currently, the system is only used to report violent crimes, but the program plans to expand to include other crimes such as shoplifting.

There are currently 297, or 98 percent, of businesses in Georgetown enrolled in the program, said Ed Solomon, one of the creators of the Alert D.C. program and the chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission for the area including Georgetown.

The program was created to ensure that business learn about crimes in their area in “real time,” Solomon said.

“Once you’re registered, you can receive text messages on your cell phone,” he said. “When [police] see actionable information . they’ll send out the information within 10 minutes of getting that call.”

Before the new alert program, local businesses did not get information about major local crimes until two or three days after the event, he added.

“Rather than having eight or nine officers out looking for the suspect, you can have thousands of eyeballs looking out,” Solomon said.

He added that so far, no criminals have been caught as a direct result of the program.

“I think it’s still in the early stages here,” said John Wiebenson, deputy executive director of operations for the Georgetown Business Improvement District, which has been helping businesses enroll in the program since the official program’s inception. “I think there are some challenges. I think we’re looking to fine-tune the response time between when an incident happens and when it goes out.”

Wiebenson added that he was concerned that people could start ignoring the text messages and e-mails if the program is not more confined to their immediate area and concerns. For example, he said, many business owners complain about getting alert e-mails about traffic incidents in Northeast D.C.

Nevertheless, Wibenson said, the system has been well received.

“I think [business owners] are happy to see that something is being done,” he said.

The program is a collaborative effort of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Office of Unified Communications to combat crime in the District.

Nick Wasylczuk, owner of Just Paper & Tea on P Street, has been involved with the program since the first pilot program began over three years ago.

Wasylczuk said he has received “plenty” of text messages about nearby crimes since he became involved in the program and described them as being “very helpful,” though he said he has yet to have aided in a crime bust.

He said he is appreciative of the neighborhood bringing local businesses together to solve the crime problem in the Georgetown area.

“We still outnumber the thieves,” he said.

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